Consider This . . .
1984 represents the start of the computer generation and the point
for all measurements of change. Depending on your inclination
at the time, you had your choice of an IBM machine with 64K of
RAM, two floppy drives and no hard drive, or the Apple Macintosh,
which was just as diminutive. The price for either of these little
powerhouses was high and, of course, they came with these lovely
little black and white or amber monitors in later generations.
As I have discussed, over the past couple years we have witnessed
exponential increases in operating power and a corresponding decrease
in size and price. These changes have radically altered the computer
landscape and continue to do so even today. Just a couple issues
back we talked at length about the remarkable changes in monitor
technology---the growing popularity of the flat LCD screens, which
have now become a free upgrade on many systems sold by makers
like Dell and Gateway.
There is one device in the home and office computer configuration/systems
that, in my opinion, has not received an appropriate amount of
attention---the printer. This device is normally mated to each
new computer that passes through. We have long since abandoned
those Neanderthal Epson sprocket feed serial impact printers Unfortunately-and
I presume you are like me-I still have a couple of those printers
stored away right beside the old typewriters.
The replacement for those older printers was the black and white
Hewlett Packard (HP) laser printers, models II, III, IIIP+, and
now 5si, etc. Other printers like Brother and Sharp share the
stage, but HP has a respectable market share on that component
of the system. Recent press releases indicate HP is going to be
much more aggressive in capturing the high-end commercial color
printing market as well. Those HP lasers refuse to die. I am convinced
that the secret is in the disposable cartridge, as 80 percent
of the machine is built into that $40-$80 cartridge. Each new
cartridge is like getting a new machine, but it is still old technology
and it is still black and white. It is time to stop and consider
the newest printers with color.
For several years I have had a variety of color printers available
to me. Three years ago I participated in the decision to purchase
a Minolta Magicolor 2200 laser printer. At that time the Minolta
was priced at $2,400. Today, that machine---with 1200dpi, 32MB
of RAM upgradeable to 96MB and is 10/100 network ready out of
the box---can be purchased locally for under $1,000. The fusion
technology of the Minolta unit more closely resembles the laserjet
rather than the inkjet technology. The copy quality of the Minolta
is near the top of copiers and, while more costly per page than
black and white, at less than 10 cents it's a solid value and
performer. HP also has a great color laser copier with similar
features in the 4550N priced at $2,500. The Lexmark C720 is $1,800.
These machines produce B&W copies at nearly 20 pages per minute,
but can be as slow as five to 10 per minute when producing color
copies. The laser color copies appear to me to be more durable
than the output from their inkjet counterparts.
I have, however, found that the HP G85 multi-function unit, which
I have used for several months, to be more to my liking. The additional
features, like scanning and faxing, plus great color copies make
up for the slower color copy speed of 10 ppm. Anyone with a digital
camera won't mind the wait and the instant gratification of making
your own prints. Within the past few months HP has introduced
a new LaserJet multi-purpose unit model D135 which is advertised
as producing 19 ppm in B&W and 16 ppm in color. The new unit can
also handle legal size documents and has a dual paper tray system.
Both units have an automatic document feeder for faxing or copying.
If you don't need the multi-purpose units, I would look at the
HP CP1160 and the 2200cse. Both of these units are advertised
as producing color copies from 10 to 16 ppm. The good news is
that all four of the HP inkjet units are priced below $500. Internet
shopping can probably bring at least the G85 under $400, as was
the case for me. These units continue to use a dual ink cartridge
system and, at least the first two units referred to, use the
same cartridges, which are now available in more and more places,
including our local Giant food stores. I have not attempted to
refill the cartridges myself, although it is possible to buy refill
kits over the Internet and at the Office Depot stores.
Aside from the technical aspect of the decision, there is one
thing that is undeniable. When you give someone a color copy the
reaction is always one of excitement and to those not accustomed
to such output, envy.
I can guarantee that, once you migrate to color, you will never
look back and things will never look the same again. I know it's
no longer spring, but it's never too late to add color to your
life and work.
If you have comments or suggestions, or have an idea for a future
computer or business topic, e-mail me at email@example.com
Jimmy R. Hammond, CPA, is a resident of Annapolis and a consultant to businesses in Annapolis, Baltimore and Washington D.C.